How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

read more
6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

read more
Ironman Florida – Race Recap

Ironman Florida – Race Recap

For a long time, it has been called the Granddaddy of all endurance events, the Ironman triathlon. A 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run done consecutively in the same day. Of course, nowadays, double, triple, and even deca Ironman distance triathlons are becoming more and more popular, as well as 24, 48 and even 72-hour mud and obstacle run challenges. If you are calling me crazy for doing my second Ironman, I can introduce you to at least a few people who do challenges that make Ironman look like a game of hopscotch. (Yes, Matt “UltraIronBeast” Dolitsky, you are one of those.)

This competition for me was a learning experience in overcoming obstacles, most of them mental. I did not PR, or even come close, but I now understand completely the quote, “The mind will quite 100 times before the body does.”

Pre-Race

IMAG0372

Pete Amedure, Kari Eichen, Kat Ward, Jamie Breibart and myself all decided to drive up Wednesday morning in order to get acclimated to the environment and eliminate and reasons for not being prepared for Saturday’s race.  Pete, Kari and I were in my car and had a great time on the way up.  Of course, there was a stop at the Huddle House in Perry Florida where we ate and laughed to a point where I spaced out and left my phone, and didn’t realize it until we were half-an-hour from Panama City Beach.  It didn’t help that I was in the middle of contracts and had all my recruiters contacting me about interviews and new opportunities.   (I ended up remedying this by sending FedEx to the restaurant and delivering it to our hotel.  In the meantime, Google Voice was a tremendous help.)

We arrived at the Laketown Wharf complex where we stayed in a luxurious three bedroom, three bath condominium, with a beautiful view of the gulf.  I give this hotel/condo complex four stars.  It had everything needed including a nightly water and light show that rivals the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  Well, not really, but it was a fun amenity.  The condos all have a full kitchen, with dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans, coffee maker, and a full-size refrigerator.  Everything needed for the athlete, and spectathletes, to remove all those pressures of nutrition, and early morning breakfasts.  The area also has plenty of great restaurants for good eating as well.

Afterward, we walked the quarter mile to athlete check-in to receive our chip, bibs, bags, and swag.  I was a little disappointed in the swag this year.  Last year they gave out beautiful TYR transition backpacks, but this year it was a very inferior white backpack that looks like it will fall apart.  Jamie’s actually did, so they gave her a replacement immediately.  The expo was about twice the size that it was last year, with a host of new vendors.  Verizon was displaying their goods, as they were the tracking sponsor this year, along with Newton, Fit2Run, a local bike shop and a bunch of the regulars.  Refuel was there, talking about Chocolate Milk, so I did create a video with them talking about the benefits of it.  I will share that link on Twitter when I receive it.  It should be good for a couple of laughs.

1450699_10101701558914161_1053420488_n

After that, we spent the next couple of days, taking in the aura of Ironman, preparing and eating.  Eating was a non-stop event for us.  I knew from experience that immense calories were going to be needed in order to be comfortable on the course, so I encouraged our team to keep eating as I did myself.

_MG_2276Thursday night was the athlete welcome dinner, and I was almost embarrassed.  My recollection of the 2011 athlete dinner was so wonderful, that I really talked it up and encouraged Pete, Jamie, and Kari to come.  Jamie decided not to go, but I was so excited for Pete and Kari to be there I couldn’t contain my emotions.  Unfortunately, I was sort of let down.  It seemed unorganized and hurried.  Yes, my favorite pro-triathlete and world champion Mirinda Carfrae was interviewed on stage, so that was great, but the rest of it was about charities and a couple of athletes overcoming their own obstacles.  There were video presentations about a woman who was competing for her husband who died the year earlier while training, and a quadriplegic who was competing to show the world that anyone could do anything if they just challenged themselves.

1394432_10102251072868771_978366175_nYes, their stories were inspiring but I just felt like it was too much and way too long.  In 2011 the presentations were balanced between the negative and the positive inspiring stories and we even had an athlete briefing by the race director all in the span of 90 minutes.  It held the attention of every athlete to a point where the announcer almost didn’t need the microphone.  This time, a good portion of the athletes conversed right through all the presentations to a point where it was hard to hear the MC with a microphone.  I felt like I let my friend Pete down to a point where I was apologizing so much on the walk back I became annoying.  Sorry, Pete and Kari.

_MG_2265Friday, the anxiety hit like a ton of bricks.  You couldn’t cut the tension in the condo with a Ginsu, serrated edge knife.  We ate breakfast and then headed down to the beach to get in the water with our wetsuits.  The waves sets were barreling to the shore with such force that the red, “no-swimming”, flag was flown, but we knew we needed to at least get in the water for a few minutes just to test out our goggles and our wetsuits.  Surprising enough, even with the force of the waves, I thought I became a little more confident.  I was able to stay on the surface of the water, and I practiced duck diving through the waves instead of trying to swim over them.  I really thought I may have a chance of being faster out of the water than I thought.

Afterward, we talked through our transition plans to double check our gear, 1383330801836checked to make sure our bikes were ready to go and proceeded to transition to check-in everything.  We had decided to try and wait out the rain, but unfortunately, I had a phone interview which had the chance of exceeding beyond the time check-in would close, so we walked down in the rain.  The line was so long, I was going to be cutting it very close, so afterward, I ran back to the hotel.  On the way back, I dropped my phone and cracked the screen.  Yes, I had the phone back in my hands all of two hours and I dropped it.  I have never broken a phone before,  ever,  and here I had two phone interviews and I cracked the screen.  I was lucky enough that the phone still worked with voice recognition and a little effort, so the two interviews scheduled went off without any problems and I confirmed them both for second interviews as well.

That night we had a good dinner at the Wicked Wheel and we were all in bed around 9 pm ready to take on the Ironman.

Race Day

As predicted, the night before was restless but I did end up sleeping a good 4-5 hours before the alarm went off.  As planned we dressed in sweats, grabbed our “Special Needs” bags,  nutrition for the bike, and headed to transition around 4:30 am.  We were body marked, checked our bikes, dropped our bags, and then headed back to try and leisurely eat breakfast, and dress for the race.  Kari cooked eggs and turkey bacon, I cooked oatmeal and we all hung out for a while and tried to prepare ourselves with our loved ones.  It was kind of surreal.  I remembered these moments from the first time I competed in this race, but it still seemed like it was all new again.

We dressed, pulled on our wetsuits halfway, hugged and headed for the start line.  We walked 1393113_10202369776593562_1301605987_nwith Kari, Kim, and Danny down to the start, but athletes had to enter separately than spectators, so when we finally hit the beach we couldn’t find them.  I really wanted to see them all before the start, but I knew I would be ok if I didn’t, but Kari had Pete’s goggles in her bag, so now it became imperative that we find them.  We walked over trying to find them, so when it came to a point where we had no time left, we dropped our stuff and proceeded to button up our wetsuits and prepare to go under the arch.  It was at that moment, our party found us.  Talk about cutting it close.  We hugged, gut our well wishes, wished each other luck and headed into the mass of athletes preparing for the start.

This year was a little different as signs were being held up with expected times for the swim.  It could be compared to pace groups commonly found in road races except instead of going deep from a start line this went wide along the shore with the idea that if the slower swimmers would be the widest from the buoys and would fall in behind the faster ones.   This was thought to bring down the chaos of a mass swim start, but for me, it was worse.   I have been in comparable rough water,  hit, kicked and swam over before and I always kept on swimming no matter what, but this time I was kicked so many times with the last time throwing my goggles from my face.  It took me a few minutes to find them floating away from me, but I was able to put them back without too much trouble.

When I finished my first loop, the clock said 1:11 which was very slow.  I thought I should be able to make up at least three minutes on the second loop, so I shouldn’t be in any danger of not making the 2:20 cutoff.  I found a rhythm and just kept swimming, but I veered to the left of buoys and to keep correcting my course.  When I made the turn for the straightaway to the swim finish,  I glanced at my wrist to check my Garmin to see how much time I had left, and it was gone.  Not only could I not find out what I needed to cross the swim finish, I wasn’t going to know how fast I would bike, or run.  I wouldn’t know when to take my nutrition or even what time it was.

0477_16758Three buoys from the end I ended up with a paddle boarder on the left of me and jet ski on the right.  The paddleboarder kept yelling the time I had left.  “You have 8 minutes. You got this just keep going.”  I have to admit, the idea of a DNF crossed my mind and it did not scare me.  I thought to myself “would it really be the end o the world.”  I would be able to support Pete, Jamie, and Kat and I wouldn’t have to worry about biking 112 miles, chafing, nutrition, none of it.  Of course, I wouldn’t get to cross that finish line and I would feel like a failure and that is what really scared me.  It wasn’t the disappointment of my friends or even my family, it was the disappointment I would have in myself.  That never-ending coulda, woulda, shoulda would really haunt me, so I sped up and went as hard as I could.  The waves after the sandbar helped and even though I got caught up in the rope tied to one of the lifeguard’s flotation device I was able to hit the beach at exactly 2:20 getting me over the timing mat at 2:20:08.

I don’t mind stating that I was exhausted.  I have stated it time and time again, that I am not even a good swimmer, but this really put it in perspective.

I ran into transition and the volunteers stated I had eight minutes to cross the bike mat, so they hurried me into my bib and jersey I was using for the bike, put on my helmet and shoes and rushed me out into transition to grab my bike.  I crossed and headed out on my 112-mile journey.

My lungs were screaming and my stomach was churning, but I just kept going.  I0477_15604 passed the mile 10 marker and about, what I estimate was around the 12-13 mile mark, nausea started.  I pulled over to the side of the road and vomited sea water over the guardrail.  Unfortunately, I have what is called a vasovagal response to vomiting, which basically means I pass out cold.  I woke up, splayed out on the side of the road with the sun shining in my eyes.  It took a while to get my wits and balance in order to get back on my bike.  I continued slowly with the thoughts of turning around and just ending it.  Who would blame me?  I became sick on the bike, no one would care.  With my stomach still churning and my head spinning I decided I would go to the twenty-mile marker and if I didn’t feel better I would turn around.  The earlier thoughts I had of a DNF plagued me again and when I saw the 20-mile sign, I was still feeling sick, but better than I did.  I took in some of the Isagenix mix I had in my bottles and decided to go on to the next marker, but it wasn’t more than a mile later I realized that if I turned around at the 30 mile mark, I would have biked 60 miles by the time I got back to the start.  That’s when I knew I had it in me.  It no longer was about time now it was about finishing.

From that point on the bike ended up being uneventful.  Sure, there were minor challenges.  For instance, the wind picked up quite a bit, and of course, I still had no perception of time, except for when I asked, but I just put my head down and kept going.

Here is a little lesson learned while I was on the bike.  As I mentioned the wind became a challenge during the bike, but I decided to wear an aero helmet and while I was in aero position and looked down, the wind became a little less a factor.  I found myself being able to pick up a higher cadence.  The minute I looked straight I could not only hear the wind, but I felt like someone had hit the breaks on my bike.  Every article and person always said, one way and the cheapest way to become more aero was a helmet.  They were right.

Being the last one out of the water did have one advantage.  I wasn’t going to get passed.  I was doing all the passing, and with each rider I passed, I felt a little bit of mental boost which helped a great deal.  I rolled into transition in a little over 7 hours, which, in my estimation, had me on the side of the road for a little over 30 minutes.  All-in-all it wasn’t actually that bad.

A volunteer grabbed my bike, I snatched my run gear bag and was greeted in the changing room by my friend, and client, Hugo Scavino.  He helped me rid myself of the bib and bike jersey and don my shoes and hat.  After a huge hug, I headed off onto the run course.  I stopped briefly for words of encouragement, hugs and kisses from Kim, Kari, Maria and Anne, and off onto the course I went.  I walked for about a quarter mile before I started running.  I was kind of amazed.  I felt like I was able to transition to my running legs a little easier than the Augusta 70.3 I competed in six weeks earlier.  I hit the first aid station in about 1.5 miles and I was feeling pretty good.  I formulated my plan of running from aid station to aid station and just walking while I was getting water and nutrition.  This worked for the first loop.

0477_16910Pete and Jaime passed me at my mile 3 and their mile 10 and we shook hands and I motivated Pete with warning him I should not be able to catch him.  Of course in the back of my mind, I was questioning if I could somehow make up 7 miles on him.  Dave Nardoski caught up with me on his second loop, so I walked and chatted with him for a few minutes before I picked up the pace again.  At mile 6 I saw Kat looking really strong and I yelled some encouragement to her as I passed.  The halfway point for the first loop is in a park and I was feeling pretty good.  I started doing the math in my head for what it would take to catch up to Pete and Jamie.  The idea of the three of crossing together seemed surreal but possibly realistic.  At mile 10 I saw Jamie and she had picked up the pace from Pete, and she looked really good.  Obviously, the three of us crossing was most likely not going to happen unless I could really pick up some speed and Pete and I could catch her.  A little while later I saw Pete again walking.  We stopped for a minute and he told me that everything hurt.  I gave him some encouragement and we parted.  Just prior to the turnaround I found myself running next to Lew Hollander.  Lew, is an 83-year-old, twenty-time Kona qualifier and finisher.  He is extremely inspiring and is the epitome of the idea that age doesn’t have to be an excuse.  We chatted briefly, he gave me some motivation, I congratulated him, he ran into the finisher chute and I made the turn.  Kim and Danny were on the other side of the turn, so I was able to see them and get some love and hugs from Kim.  She actually ran a little bit with me before I headed off.

I was hurting now.  At mile 14 I slowed to a walk.  My feet were screaming in agony, my hips, quads, hamstrings and IT bands were in a lot of pain and I started getting a twinge in my back.  I didn’t want to walk, but my legs were not letting me run either.  I decided I would walk to the aid station of after mile 15 and continue from there.  It didn’t happen the way I wanted.   I ended up doing a series of run/walk intervals all the way to mile 18 where Pete and I crossed for the last time.  We high-fived each other and continued on.  Not too far ahead I stopped to use a portlet, but when I exited I became turned around and stupidly started running in the wrong direction.  I caught myself about a half mile before I realized what I was doing and quickly did a one-eighty.  I guess I was meant to run even more than a marathon this time.

I did meet Susan, a member of the Sarasota Storm Tri Club, which I have participated in races and training with.  We chatted and played cat and mouse for a while.  Susan had a very steady pace, so I would catch her and then when I would walk she would pass me.  This happened about 3 or 4 times throughout the marathon portion.  After getting completing the out-and-back in the park to head to the finish I started to feel like I just was about done with this whole thing.  I was walking more than running, I was in pain and I was just ready for this experience to end.  When I saw mile 20, I thought I only have a 10k left.  I could do a 10k in my sleep.  I started to pick up the pace just a bit.  I walked through the aid station in between 20 and 21 and started talking to myself.  “C’mon legs.  Just one more training run.  I need ya.  Relax.  Use gravity as momentum.  We can do this.”

Ahead was mile marker 21, and it was then when I decided, there will be no more stops at aid stations, there will be no more walking.  It was time to get this done.  I picked up the pace and never looked back.  I caught up with Susan at mile 22 and I told her to come with me.  This was just a 5k with a one-mile warm-up.  She said something that really motivated me.  “You are really strong, Brad.”  Who was she trying to kid?  It wasn’t 12 hours ago I had thoughts of quitting.  I didn’t quit though and here I was 4 miles from the finish of my second Ironman.  I picked up the pace even more to a point where I was running at a sub 8:30 pace for a bit.  I was in a lot of pain, but it was going to be worse if I stopped.  Every time I passed another athlete or spectator they would say “Good job” and that just fueled me.  A couple of the spectators would yell, “Awesome pace keep it up!”  I ran through the Tri Club village at 25 when someone yelled “Go Goof GO!”, so I even picked up the pace even more.  When I finally reached the chute there were two people running together in front of me and I didn’t know whether to let them go ahead or pass them.  I passed them and sped up even more in order to make sure I was alone at the finish line.

I saw the finish line and didn’t even look at the clock.  After all, I hadn’t known what time it was up to that point, so what did it matter now.  The announcer bellowed, “Brad Minus from Tampa Bay, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”  Oh, how sweet that sounded.  Especially after being kicked, and hit in the water, losing my goggles and Garmin, vomiting and blacking out on the side of the road, and running through all that pain.  I finally reached the finish.

0477_49526

A volunteer escorted me to Yvonne Van Vlerken, the women’s first-place finisher, who placed the medal around my neck.  We congratulated each other and she gave me a hug, and then I continued with my handler to get a shiny warming sheath, and a finish photo before she handed me off to Kim, Maria, Jamie and the Dannys.  I saw Pete sitting down and we just looked at each other with pain on our faces but pride in our eyes.

0477_45256

The rest of the night consisted of pizza and hard cider and regaling stories of the race.  PB&J had accomplished what we set out to do a year earlier.

578495_10102260791193171_715325386_nJamie was the heroine of the night.  When she decided to run she end up fast enough to finish with a 13:50.  I am still so proud of her.  Pete ended up a little under 15 and I ended up with a 15:09.  I am not happy with it.  It is significantly longer than 2011, but I finished and everything considered, I did have fun.  That is what matters most.

Thank you to all who tracked and reported on Facebook, for all the prayers, thoughts, motivation and kudos, Anne, Kari, Maria, Hugo and all the other voluneteers, Kim for supporting me and especially to Pete, Jamie, & Kat for being my training buddies through this journey.

Carpe Viam!

0477_67915

Albeit Augusta Part 2

I made it to the front of the dock where handlers had signs up with our ages and waves on them.  I found my wave with ease and merged in the rest of the 40-44 males whom had last names that started with the letters I – Q.  Now is when the nerves started to build up in my stomach and all the insecurities started to show their pretty little selves.  “Did I train enough?”  “Why didn’t I do more swim workouts?”  “Why can’t I use a pull buoy?”  “Should I really use a wet suit?” and the most famous insecurity that comes up before a race; “What makes you think you belong here with all these athletes?”  I never can shake that one.  (Read my “About” page to find out why.)

Before I knew it, we were starting to move toward the dock.  I pulled on my wet suit and with the help of another athlete got it zipped up and secured.  One thing about triathletes, we always help each other out and the real special ones may even give up some time on their race to help as well, but I digress.  We slowly moved to the dock where we jumped into the water.  The temp wasn’t bad at all and my wet suit was buoyant enough that my insecurities started to fold the minute I got into the water.  Maybe subconsciously I thought there was a chance I could die while I was in the water, I am not sure, but I felt a lot better.  I moved toward the starting buoys and noticed one thing.  The current was not nearly as strong as the previous year.  Last year I spent more energy trying not to cross the start line before the gun, because of the strength of the current.  This year, that was not the case.
The announcer was counting down and my heart rate started to rise.  3, 2, 1.. and the gun went off..bang!  I started my 1.2 mile survival journey that would be the swim portion of the Augusta Ironman 70.3.  I could swear I heard the announcer from the horse races in my head.  “AAANNNND There OFF!”, and we were. I kept two things in my head as the swim went on; my stroke count and how many reps of my stroke count did I do.  In other words, “1, 2, 3 bubble, breathe.   2, 2, 3, bubble, breathe”, all the way up to five when I would site the boat house right by the finish.  I was able to maintain it for about six hundred meters until my A.D.D. took over and my mind drifted.  Of course, I got a quick dose of reality when I looked up and right in front of me was a diver yelling at me “To the right!  To the right!”  It seems I may have drifted a little over to the left and was about to cross the line.  I don’t think it was a dis-qualifier or anything, but it did take me a little off course.  For a good amount of the time, I just kept my legs together and stuck my head down and as long as I used my roll to turn into my armpit I found that I was moving rather smoothly.  Slowly, but smoothly.  Right at the point I met the diver was when I realized that I was at the back of my wave, which was a lot better than last year when I ended up falling to the back the wave behind the wave behind me.  This year I was in the rear of my wave with the stragglers but at least the bulk of the wave immediately behind me was still back there.  Sure, the faster swimmers from that wave passed me and I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was to stay in front of that wave.  Score…2 points for my ego.  
When I sighted the finish line, I was ecstatic.  I surely was going to hit my goal of thirty minutes.  My only issue now was, that the finish line looked so close but it was like the opposite of a mirror on the driver side door of a car.  They should put a sign up…”Swim Finish is Farther than Appears”, because when I was about to turn for the finish, I realized that the finish buoys were actually another 30 meters ahead of me.  You mean, I have to continue swimming?  Son of a……uh…donkey?  (I didn’t really think that either.)  
Feeling pretty good after the swim
I finally was able to get to the ramp and out of the swim and started heading towards transition.  I glanced down at my watch as I pressed the button to move it from Swim Mode to transition 1 mode, I noticed that, gosh darnit (see the last set of parentheses), my time was the exact same as last year.  I couldn’t believe it.  Last year, I was all over the place.  I zig zagged, I swam breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, but this year I consistantly swam freestyle the full 1.2 miles and I still was just as slow.  Seriously?  All that work and I still came in at 37:17.  One thing was different this year though.  I was actually running toward transition and they made it farther this year to get to the wet suit strippers.  My legs felt good, my breathing came back almost instantaneously and I was running, almost sprinting.  There was the difference.  While last year the current was stronger I still used a ton of energy to finish it, which only allowed me to walk to my bike in transition.  I remember even walking my bike to the mount line.  This year, ran to the strippers, dropped to my butt, a young chick grabbed my suit and yanked it off and handed it to me as I jumped up.  I ran to  my bike, slipped on my shoes while clipping my race belt, grabbed my helmet, clipped the chin strap and ran my bike to the mount line.  Four minutes and twenty-two seconds after I stepped out of the river I was mounted and rolling onto the bike course.  It took me less than half the time it took me last year and that was without the third-of -a-mile distance they added from the river to transition.  Sure, I think I could have taken even more time off, but I was ok with it.  
Starting out on the  bike
I rolled out with the sound of the spectators becoming more and more distant as I quickly got my cadence up to 90 RPM, which is what I strive to keep no matter what the terrain.  My coach, Amy Bennett Eck, had suggested I not take any fluids or food for about 15 minutes to allow my body to calm a little and luckily I remembered because I noticed I was hungry.  In February, I purchased the Garmin 910XT and it has been an absolute dream to train with.  I mainly use it for number of swim strokes per 100m, time and distance, bike cadence, time, speed, power, distance and heart rate, and run cadence, pace, distance and time.  In this auto multi-sport mode, there is the functionality to program the events you will be either racing or training and with one touch of button it will transition from one event to the other giving you a transition time in-between.  For example, when I came out of the swim, I pushed one button as I came across the timing mats and it started to capture the amount of time I spent in T1, as soon as I mounted the bike I pushed the same button and it automatically started capturing the data for the bike portion.  Obviously, it did the same when I completed the bike event and on to the run.  There is also a simultaneous alarm function that I programmed to go off every 15 minutes.  This is how I track my nutrition.  Every fifteen minutes, when I hear, or feel, the alarm I know I need to have taken in a quarter of a bottle of hydration.  Every three times that alarm goes off it is time to eat something.  For this race I chose Honey Stinger gel packets.  To me they taste like Jello brand pudding so they can also be a treat.  Since Amy suggested I hold off I knew I just had to wait for the first alarm to go off and I could start drinking for the speed bottle that is bracketed to the vertical frame tube beneath my seat, where a straw then is strung up the through my aerobars so I can sip on the bottle whenever I want.  I love it.
The first five miles of the course was relatively flat which allowed me to slow down my heart rate while picking up my cadence and moving my speed to around 21 mph.  The air was clean, the sky was overcast and the temperature was perfect.  Everything just kept feeling like it was coming together.  I had no physical issues, I was keeping to my game plan and even though I was getting passed, I was also passing athletes.  Around mile ten the hills started to come into play and I started to move through the initial pack of age groupers whom I was suspecting were the good swimmers and runners but not so good cyclists.  Sometimes you can tell experience from the way people ride.  Amy always has me keeping my cadence and not coming out of the saddle unless I really feel like I need to.  I keep my cadence where I need to and I just move the gears to keep it in that range whether going up hills, coming down, or riding flat.  Sometimes a hill is steep and long therefore I do come out of the saddle, but it takes a lot of energy to do that, and while I do notice a lot of experienced riders taking that strategy, I do not care to.  I also notice while I am expending the same amount of energy on hills as I do cycling on flat roads, I pass those whom are pedaling out of the saddle.  Personally, that is always my favorite.  It is a little fun passing people and saying hello while I am comfortable in the saddle and they are standing, mashing down on the pedals and panting. But, just a little.  It still doesn’t take away from those athletes that are trained to average 23-25 mph and fly right by like a jet plane.  That is when I come back to earth and realize I am still that un-athletic guy who took two years to get this far, while others were able harness their genes and progress much faster.
Mucking for the camera
Before I knew it mile 16 flew by and I was passing the very first aid station where the volunteers where hooting and hollering, handing out water bottles and Ironman Perform sports drink.  Last year I strayed from my nutrition plan and ended up having stomach issues on the run which slowed me way down.  This year I was determined to learn from my mistakes so every aid station I just passed up.  Everything I needed was either in my bento box, in my bottles or in my tri-top.  I refused to stray this year and later, that paid off.  
The hills were coming a little more fast and furious in the middle of the bike course.  I had programmed another alert from my watch that helped a little.  I had my Garmin give me 5 mile splits, so I could tell how I was doing.  I was hoping to average 20 mph minimally, so when the split alert sounded I should see 15 minutes or less.  I was shocked when the middle of my bike I was consistently getting 14:19, 14:40, 14:52.  Of course there were two laps of 5 miles when I was way over.  After mile 30 we ended up with these rolling hills that while were nothing huge I got caught in the wrong gear and had to come out of the saddle and of course was shocked to see that I was moving all of 8 mph.  Wow!  From 21 mph to 8 within just a few seconds.  Somehow I screwed up somewhere, probably due to my ADD, and wasn’t paying attention and got caught on a hill and now I had to mash down on the pedals like the novices just to make it.  Sir Isaac Newton gave me all the luck I needed when he proclaimed “What goes up?”…wait for it…wait for it…”Must come down.”  Even though I was behind time, I could make it up by continuing to pedal on the downhills and scream at 35, and even once for a short stint, 42 mph.  That helped quite a bit.  While the last ten miles were pretty flat I still was kind of shocked when I looked at my watch at mile 55, when the split time came up at 12:49.  That was the highlight of my event.  Five flat miles in 12 minutes, 49 seconds.  It was definitely a first for me.  
I mentioned earlier that Coach Amy had me practicing transitions prior to this race, well, it paid off at T2(bike-ro-run transition).  I slipped off the bike, surprising myself by continuing to run, slipped off my helmet, took off my cletes, changed my race belt to a the one that stored salt tabs and stinger gels, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition in two minutes and forty-four seconds.  Well, below half of my T2 time last year.  What made it even more motivating and exciting was the race clock stated 4:05:32 as I ran out.  Remember, that my wave was at 8:00a, exactly 30 minutes after the start of the race, so this wasn’t my race time.  My race time was 30 minutes less; 3:35:32.  As I was running passed the aid station they had about a quarter of mile out of transition, it hit me.  I could possibly be 5:40 something.  I was hoping to come under 6 hours, but if I could run around a two-hour marathon I could really crush my time from last year.  A two-hour marathon should be easy for me.  I ran a 1:38 in a race last year, I should be able to conquer this goal.  So that’s what I set out to do.  
Unlike road races, long course triathlons usually have aid stations around every mile, which is nice.  When your body has been taking a beating for more than 3 hours, it might need a little extra hydration and nutrition.  My nutrition goal was to walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke and then every 4 miles taking a gel packet.  
Starting the run

Before I knew it I was at mile 3 wondering where the miles went, especially when my watch had me doing under 9 minute miles.  Of course I expected that to change as my body became a little more tired and I started to walk through the aid stations.  The run in Augusta is two loops around the center of town around Broad street.  It was loaded with spectators and I enjoy it.  Sometimes there is even some great signs that people make.  I have seen some funny ones, like “Toe Nails are for sissies” and “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman”, but my favorite to this day is still “If triathlon was easy they would call it football.”  That one always cracks me up.  Not that it is true.  Take it from someone who has attempted both American football the other football we call soccer, they both have there different definitions of tough.  Triathlon is just the endurance tough because it doesn’t stop for numerous hours, where in the other kinds of football they usually only last 2-3 hours and they have these things called “timeouts”.  In triathlon we don’t have timeouts, the clock doesn’t stop because you have a foul or a penalty.  It just keeps going.

The first loop went around Augusta went very fast.  Before I knew it I was in back a couple of blocks to the west passing the split where a sign was posted to keep left for the first loop or turn right if it was your second loop.  I remembered last year really disliking that sign, but this year not so much.  
The last mile
 (took off my hat and
sunglasses for the picture…LOL)

The crowds seemed to have grown on my second loop and I kept my eye out for Jessica who was sporting her bright yellow tank top and green hair.  It was supposed to be yellow as well, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.  I never did see her the whole run, but nevertheless the crowd cheered everyone on.  A couple of little kids were on the side holding their hands out and cheering hoping we would run by and give them a high five.  There were families out just hoping to get a glimpse of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers or fathers.  As I was running, my photographer’s eye kept seeing Norman Rockwell, paintings.  This really was a very clean, forthright city with an old soul.  I couldn’t help but smile a lot of the time, at least until mile nine.  I couldn’t believe it, the plan was working just fine but at that point, cramp, side stretch…ouch.  I forced myself to run until the mile 10 aid station where I walked and grabbed water and a cup of coke while breathing as deep as I could.  When the pain subsided a little, I started to run only to be struck down again by the pain.  I grabbed a gel packet and a salt tab hoping they would help and they did, for a short while until I arrived at the mile eleven aid station and ate an orange.  At this point, I didn’t care. I had 2.1 miles left and I wasn’t stopping.  If I had to leave my intestines on the sidewalk and pick them up later that’s what I was going to to.  I picked up my pace, blocked out everything and headed for the finish line.  I didn’t even see the mile twelve marker, but I felt the vibration of my watch which told me now I had just a little over a mile to go.  I kept looking down at my watch, 12.1, 12.24, 12.35.  I felt like this was the longest mile of my life, but I was wrong.  I finally made it to the split.  Left for the first lap and right to the finish and I was going right.  Here is what turned out to be the longest stretch of the run.  I had no idea that a quarter mile could feel like an eternity and when I finally did see the finish, I felt like I was in the movie; “The Shining”, when the little kid is looking down the hall and it keeps getting longer and longer?  That exactly what it felt like.  I looked down at my watch and noticed what it said 19:54.  Crud!  I wasn’t going to make it.  I lifted my legs and increased my cadence just hoping I could get one little ounce of speed and I got it, but just a little too late.  

I crossed the line with the race clock stating 6:06:54, so doing the math my race time ended up being 5:36:54.  While I didn’t hit my goal of a 2 hour half-marathon I still crushed my previous year’s time by over forty-two minutes.  I was on cloud nine.  I couldn’t help smiling.  This really was one of the greatest races I ever competed in.  I take that back.  It was the greatest performance I ever had in a race, period.  Unfortunately, being the oldest in my group I was the first person to cross the finish line, except for Russ who passed me at mile 5, so there was no one to share it with. 
Best race of my life!  

After receiving my medal, taking a couple of pictures and having my timing chipped removed from my ankle I  headed over to the refreshment tent a can of coke from this pool of ice and ran in to Russ.  He told me that he finished around 4:28.  This kid is a machine and that just proved it.  We congratulated each other and I went over and got a massage, but not before disposing of the first coke and grabbing a second.  While waiting I finished that can and by the time I finished up with Caroline, the LMT who took care of me, I felt like a million dollars.  With exception of a twinge in my back, which for me is normal due to my injury, I really felt good.  No pain, no soreness and due to the adrenaline still pumping from having such an awesome performance I felt like a rockstar, and I never really felt that way before.

Epilogue
I changed and called Amy and gabbed about the race.  She was proud of me.  The last two races she had trained me for didn’t turn out so well, so with this performance I felt like I validated myself in her eyes and in my own.  After hanging up I saw a text from Kim telling me how awesome I did and there was a voice mail from my Dad telling me congratulations as well.  I almost cried.  I felt the tears well up, but there was just too many guys around so I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Beth and I

As it turned out we all had a good race.  Celeste PR’d, Chris finished under 6 hours, Bruce beat me by one second, and as it turned out Russ actually took first place in his age group and was on his way to Las Vegas, but the story of the weekend was Beth.  Beth had gone through a lot just to get to the race.  Besides this being her first 70.3, she never biked really prior to this year, she had an injury that kept her from running for over 3 months, so she was very freaked coming into this.  Wouldn’t you know it, after having a goal of just finishing under 6:30:00, her official time was 5:47:16.  We were all really proud of her.  You can read all about her experiences on her blog Discom-BOB-ulated Running.

The rest is pretty boring.  We grabbed our bikes, and said our congratulations to the other athletes we knew as we walked out of transition  We packed up the cars, rode back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Red Robin.  I don’t know if it was the race, or all the gel packets, electrolyte drinks, or just all the calories we burned, but I had a lettuce wrapped burger that I swear was the best I ever had.  Maybe I just felt like I actually earned it. 
What I can say is this; this had to be one of the best experiences of my life.  I cannot only attribute it to my performance in the race.  Every piece of the puzzle fit.  I couldn’t have done it without the training, my friends, my coaching, the group that I coach, my family and all of the positive people I choose to surround myself with.  With one piece out of sync, it would not have been the experience it was.